Christmas Music: Traditional


I’m a big fan of Christmas/holiday music and my favorite category has to be more traditional choral stuff. You know, where you take little boys and make them sing together and then chuck them out when their voices start cracking so that they can begin bootcamp for King’s College Choir.

So actually very traditional and staid, rather than good old family tunes like Santa Claus is Coming to Town or whatever Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole you want to wedge in here.  Not that those aren’t good. I love those too. But maybe a little less? Anyway, a brief rundown (because we’re still in finals period!) of my favorite somewhat antediluvian Christmas songs.

  1. The Nutcracker Suite:  All of it. But especially the first act and especially the battle scene.  Maybe at some point I’ll have time to go into my fraught history with the Nutcracker ballet. It’s quite the melodrama.
  2. The Messiah: Again, all of it.  But especially: Unto Us a Child is Born, We Like Sheep (Have Gone Astray) [same], And He Shall Purify, and O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion.  In that order. The Hallelujah chorus is overhyped.
  3. Drummer Boy:  I’m one of those people.
  4. What Child is This?:  I love Greensleeves and I love Christmas so you smooth them together and I love it.  It’s a law of math. Or physics.  God these finals are going to go so well. Good thing I do Chemistry.
  5. Carol of the Bells:  The choral version is really good but I have to say that I dearly leave the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s version. But on this list for the choral version (because I refuse to cheat!)
  6. Angels We Have Heard on High:  I don’t really have anything to say here but that doesn’t mean I love this one any less!
  7. Ding! Dong! Merrily on High:  Christmas song drinking game: Drink at 1) every mention of bells, 2) the word merry, 3) things happening on high, 40 angels. Let’s get hammered.
  8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: Take a shot.
  9. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:  I’m so non-religious that I have no idea what this song is about (well, maybe some semblance of idea but not more than that)(Also, please don’t explain it to me).  But it’s one of my favorites.  There are not enough Christmas songs in minor key.
  10. Go, Tell it On the Mountain:  I saw some kids (as I previously mentioned) performing this near my college and I got to stop and listen to it and take a break from studying and feel festive for three whole minutes! And then they left and I fell back into the “depths of despair” to quote Anne of Green Gables.
  11. O Come, All Ye Faithful:  Another great one! O, to be joyful and triumphant.  Looking at you, finals.
  12. O Tannenbaum: The legitimate and authentic version of O Christmas Tree. Let no one tell you otherwise.  Besides, you non-German-speakers actually have a reason to not know the words to this one.
  13. Jingle Bells:  Am I the only one who listens to the choral arrangement of this?  Why do we listen to the cheesy version at all?
  14. Sleigh Ride: It’s like Jingle Bells (but way better, shhh!)
  15. Silent Night:  No list would be complete without it.  Well, this list wouldn’t be.
  16. Auld Lang Syne: Technically a New Year’s song? I don’t care about New Year’s so it goes here.
  17. The Twelve Days of Christmas:  There’s even a dance to go with it that I will not demonstrate because I still have a shred of dignity to which I hold on desperately.  Spoiler: lords a-leaping is my favorite part.
  18. God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen:  MORE MINOR KEY!  Is this about the magi?  I always assumed this was about the magi but it just occurred to me that I actually have no clue.
  19. Joy to the World:  What a great sentiment. Behind this one, 100%.
  20. We Three Kings:  Okay, but this may actually be MY FAVORITE.  It’s definitely in the running.  The stumbling block is that it’s really hard to find a gentle enough arrangement.  I like it best slow and sedate.
  21. We Wish You a Merry Christmas:  So jovial! I love it.  Did I just say I liked slow and sedate? It all depends on the song you know.  This one is so adorably boisterous, what with the demanding foggy pudding.  It’s like the drunk friend of Christmas songs.
  22. Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly:  Fa la la la la may be the most widely recognized of the “You know that song? The one that goes…” ever.  And for that, you must appreciate it.  Also it’s really beautiful and decorative and I love gay apparel.
  23. Do You Hear What I Hear?:  Probably not, but my guess is that it is either bells or angels on high.


Songs that deserve a spot but that I don’t listen to: In the Bleak Midwinter, As with Gladness Men of Old, Angels from the Realms of Glory.

Also a shout out to Bach’s Christmas cantatas!

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